I have warned that implementation of the new Virginia photo Voter ID requirement is mercurial. If it is not in black and white in the statute, then Mark Obenshain’s position is that only he, as the sponsor, can interpret the law’s intent. This promises further obfuscation and confusion through November.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA) is twiddling its thumbs and whistling Dixie as it walks down a treacherous path to voter suppression. That is NOT the way to deal with this. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is certain at the Virginia Department of Elections (VADE), nee State Board of Elections. There will be an opportunity through a comment period on the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall for the voter ID regulations beginning on or about the 14th of July. I don’t see anything posted yet.
“The Code of Virginia requires that a voter shows a valid Virginia identification card. The state board, by regulation, now defines expired IDs – regardless of how much time has transpired since their expiration – as being expressly ‘valid,’ which, to my thinking, violates the plain meaning of the statute.” – state Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg)
This is the tip of the iceberg. The Registrars, as best I can tell, all have the equipment and software required to issue the new, otherwise useless, photo IDs. No voter, as far as I can tell, has obtained a new voter ID. The DPVA plan to facilitate obtaining IDs is completely dependent upon the rules remaining in stasis. That is pure folly. There are so many assumptions about implementation and no branch plans to compensate for failures of those assumptions. I have the solution, but first a bit of discussion.
What the registrars have is the equipment to produce the voter photo IDs in their offices. They do not have the equipment, staffing, or budget to take the show on the road. Without a budget for this, local jurisdictions, not exactly flush with cash must purchase the computer, camera, and signature pad required to go mobile. So dreams of hitting the pavement to resolve this requirement are pipe only. There is no guidance for allowing the devices to go mobile in any case. It probably would require a member of the Registrar’s staff to operate due to privacy and security considerations. The target audience includes persons who may only have time on the weekends to obtain the IDs and that would translate to overtime or compensatory time for the employees.
There is no target date for Registrars to have the necessary equipment to go mobile. My bet would be it won’t be before any election in 2014.
The software application for applying for and producing the IDs is, as I understand it, proprietary, and will not be available for individuals or organizations to download and use independently of the Registrars. That could all change; but I doubt it will.
This effort to locate and service persons who require IDs can be a more than one-step process. As I understand it, unless you are registered to vote, you can’t get a voter photo ID. Step one is registration. Step two is getting the ID after the registration is in the VADE system. There is also a new requirement to have taken a VADE class in order to pick up registration applications in quantities greater than 24. An online class, along with the other options for certification, is located on the VADE website under “Registration Drives.”
Of course a well-oiled machine, something the DPVA has never been accused of, would have this all organized and mapped out. Frankly, that would be nice but is unnecessary in this situation. Obenshain’s consistently sloppy work to suppress has provided another workaround or two.
First, no one needs a physical Voter Registration Application Form; registrations can be filed online. But if you insist, one may be downloaded and printed from the VADE website. Next, no one needs a photo voter ID to vote if they vote absentee. That’s right and there’s nothing even Obenshain can do about that before the next General Assembly session.
Meanwhile, we should not be chasing our tails over this new requirement. Yes, it would be wonderful to go to assisted living facilities, low income housing, senior centers, and anywhere we think the demographic indicates a density of voters without photo IDs. But right now, that is futile if the goal is to get them into the system. Rather, keep up the voter registration effort and identify anyone who does not have a required photo ID, however that is defined going forward. Then either follow up with a visit with the mobile equipment when it is available, or get them to vote absentee by mail. Frankly, since I am uncertain that the state voter photo ID will suffice on its own to vote in person, I much prefer the absentee option until this is all settled.